States crack down on mortgage market

Amy Scott Oct 19, 2007


Scott Jagow: There’s been a lot of talk in Congress about fixing the mortgage market. A new bill is expected on the House floor next week. In the meantime, states are taking matters into their own hands. Here’s Amy Scott.

Amy Scott: This week, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley finalized rules to crack down on abusive lending.

Mortgage brokers in the state won’t be allowed to lend money if they don’t have a “reasonable belief” the borrower can repay the loan. States like Maine, Minnesota, and North Carolina have passed their own measures.

Jeff Smith researches housing policy at the nonprofit Woodstock Institute. He wants national reforms. Smith says state laws cover private mortgage lenders and brokers, but not national banks or their subsidiaries.

Jeff Smith: The more states that pass laws puts more pressure on the federal government to put a bill forward. But you’d think that there would have been plenty of pressure at this point already, and there’s really been a lot of talk and very little action at this point.

Congress is tossing around a few ideas, like banning the bonuses some brokers get for selling loans with higher interest rates. The mortgage industry argues some borrowers choose higher interest rates. In exchange, they get lower down payments or other savings.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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